Since Newcastle United claimed the Championship title at St James Park against Barnsley over a month ago, a lot has been written and spoken about who the club should sign and who the club should let go/sell to give us a fighting chance of attacking the Premier League, to ensure that we are not simply there next season to survive and nothing more.

The biggest piece of business thus far was the retention of Rafa Benitez. Put simply, the whole tone of the summer would have been completely different if that meeting last month between Rafa and Mike Ashley had gone the other way and the Spaniard slinked off down Barrack Road and the shift in attitude and transfer policy under Rafa Benitez had been altered back to where it was pre-March 2016.

On the negative side of things for a moment, the doom and gloom amongst a small minority of fans has been quite frankly staggering.

Everything has been going swimmingly for such a long time at Newcastle United and yet still some revert to childish name calling of the owner, something of which needs to be put to bed at least for now. There has been a lot of things Mike Ashley has got wrong, deliberately and accidentally, some of which can be put down to simple naivety in running a football club.  A lot has been said and done that can’t and won’t be forgiven and quite rightly so, but for now, as long as Rafa stays and Rafa is happy that will do me.

Another negative is some fans expectations. We simply can’t just go into the Premier League next season with aspirations of smashing down the top six like it’s 1993 all over again- a little bit of realism from all parties is required.

A lot of things have changed since Kevin Keegan brought us back to the top flight all those years ago. One thing is for sure, the money in football continues to go through the roof. The days of breaking transfer records for the best striker in the world in Alan Shearer at £15m are a lifetime away, with the equivalent now being something along the lines of buying Harry Kane from Tottenham and if he were available, what would he cost in this day and age? Probably best starting the bidding at £80m and offer £200k a week.

This summer we need to do what is needed to walk before we can run in the top flight. Forget going out and buying five players at £40m+ each, that’s Manchester United territory and not feasible for Newcastle United. We also have to add in a dose of realism about who we can and can’t attract, Rafa Benitez holds a lot of clout with regards to which names will come to St James’, but these players will either want top dollar for doing so, or they will demand a certain level of security if we were to go down next season, like it or not, that’s where we are.

I do believe we can build a quite competitive side next season, without having to spend a 2017 transfer market type fortune. So the following is my relatively realistic strategy for next season based on rumours and a little bit of personal opinion.

I hear some fans turning their noses up at the players released from Manchester City this summer and I do wonder quite who they actually want to sign for us. Simple question, if we were to go after two of the players they have released in Gael Clichy and Jesus Navas and got them, would they not instantly lift the quality of the side in their respective positions? And for free.

Similarly, despite his stock being considered to be lower than it was a couple of years ago, would former Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart not enhance the quality between the posts, especially with big question marks hanging over the futures of Tim Krul, Rob Elliot and Matt Sels? Imagine what having a Premier League title winner in goal could do for the team and for the stature of the club as a whole.

Recent days have had us linked with Manchester United’s Chris Smalling. Every man and his dog has been crying out for the club to sign a no-nonsense, tough tackling centre back and wouldn’t he fit the bill and would also be a huge coup. My own personal preference has always been Ryan Shawcross from Stoke, two players of the same mould who could also bring Jamaal Lascelles on leaps and bounds.

Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs is another alleged target to improve an area fans have shown a concern for in recent seasons. A Rafa Benitez signing from years gone by for Liverpool in Lucas has also been mooted, as has Tom Cairney from Fulham and Jota from Brentford. The Cairney deal has been on the table for a while and I can’t see the lad wanting to stick it out in the Championship if any deal from the Premier League was forthcoming. That one might have legs.

Now just suppose that a summer transfer window along the lines of this pans out. It’s not being too ambitious, not pie in the sky and wouldn’t break the bank, certainly not with the silly amounts of money being mentioned for players in the current climate. Imagine if Newcastle United lined up against Tottenham Hotspur on August 12th looking something like this:

In a 4-2-3-1 –












That would leave also leave us with a squad of Darlow, Elliot, Dummett, Yedlin, Mbemba, Clark, Hanley, Hayden, Atsu, Perez, Armstrong and potentially Gouffran. Plus I’d like to see another striker to choose from and/or partner Dwight Gayle at times, but either way, that side somewhere along those lines won’t look bad at all and like I’ve said, isn’t out of the realms of possibility.

The casualties of a summer cull for me (rightly or wrongly) would be Krul, Sels, Colback, Anita, Lazaar, Diame, Gamez, Mitrovic, De Jong, Saivet and Riviere, players who either haven’t don’t it in the Premier League, Championship, or in some cases even both. These are players I also don’t think Rafa rates highly either and if moved on successfully, would bring the wage bill down somewhat.

Crucially (so far) Rafa Benitez has been given authority to manage his way and it shouldn’t be any different. He will know where to strengthen and what type of player and character is required to play at St James Park.

With regards to the Premier League, on the positive side of things, if you take the top 7 out of last season, 12 points separated Southampton in 8th and relegated Hull in 18th. Watford survived winning only 11 games, yet losing 20. There’s an awful lot of poor sides in the division and if we get a bit of quality on board, it shouldn’t be too difficult to navigate through most of them.

NB: While writing, news/speculation broke about the Chinese investors rumoured to be interested in buying the club outright or having a stake in the club. Whilst I’d be up for Mike Ashley selling the club, I’m also wary of any overseas interest in the club and in particular eyes can be cast to the dreadful running of Blackburn Rovers and Cardiff,  so it could be very much the case of ‘better the devil you know’.

Also, I don’t think these rumours will have an effect on transfer outlay as the club will be a far more attractive proposition to any suitor if the team is performing well in the Premier League. Things have been going awfully well of late but we are all aware that a spanner in the works, or a crisis, isn’t too far around the corner at Newcastle. Let’s hope the owner lets Rafa Benitez get on with his job.

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

  • Jimblag23


  • Sean Lynch

    Yedlin Veltman Abdenour Willems
    Ritchie Shelvey Boudebouz Pedro (l)
    Asencio (l)

    (l) = loan

    If only we were managers, you’d think they’d bring a game out so we could try too!

  • Viru leckworth

    Agree with just about everything in this piece. Far too much pessimism abounds. Think positive and support. Certain reservations about Chinese takeaway. Very superstitious the Chinese. Don.t want to end up with Chinese dragons on shirt fronts.

  • Leazes Ender

    Ah…… an imaginary Rafalution.

  • Marshall Giles

    Im mot a Newcastle supporter but the club is still special to me. I think you can do a lot better than Chris Smalling who isn’t a premier league level player in my opinion.
    As a Spurs supporter (disgruntled as I may be and moving further from the club all the time) I’d love to see a competitive Newcastle United in the premier league again.

    • Clarko

      He has appeared 166 times in the Premier League, 153 of those for Manchester United and has been good enough to play for Ferguson, Van Gaal and Mourinho, but you don’t think he is “Premier League level” and not good enough for a newly promoted Newcastle. Makes sense.

      • Porciestreet

        Probably best if he stays supporting the spuds.

        • Clarko

          I just really hate uninformed morons. He (a Tottenham fan), without any explanation or reasoning, branded an active Manchester United and England international player as not “Premier League level”. It is absolutley ludicrous. Newcastle fans who cannot think for themselves will read his comment and take it for fact.

          • Geordiegiants

            Your right and he is wrong!

          • Clarko


            Also, it’s *you’re.

  • Jimblag23

    Imagine if it was…


    PacMan Stam Godzilla Corbyn

    Beckham Me Wise Ginola

    Homer Simpson

    • lukegte


    • custurd

      Nah man. PacMan and Corbyn are too old. You want two Jaegers there; Gypsy Danger and Striker Eureka, i reckon. And stick Darth Vader and Stephen Hawking in the middle, you know, for power and intelligence :-)

      • Damon Horner

        bit harsh. I know PacMan is getting on in years but he still has tremendous energy levels…

  • Franzcarrsuperstar

    Why two left backs? Doesn’t seem too smart…

    I hate all this ‘that is where we are’ and ‘be realistic’ talk. I want to shoot for the moon with a top class manager and some top new players. There is plenty of money kicking about and we will be attractive to lots of players. I won’t hear it that we couldn’t be top 6. Leicester city won the premier league. Anything is possible with belief and good leadership…

  • lukegte

    “Everything has been going swimmingly for such a long time at Newcastle United”

    No. Just… no.

    “Another negative is some fans expectations. We simply can’t just go into the Premier League next season with aspirations of smashing down the top six”

    You will not find a single (lucid) Newcastle fan who believes NUFC can realistically expect to be in the top 6 next season.

    “… they will demand a certain level of security if we were to go down next season, like it or not, that’s where we are”

    This from the man who just a few paragraphs previous blasts the “the doom and gloom” amongst NUFC fans. Like it or not? Who are you to tell people how to manage their expectations?

    “I’m also wary of any overseas interest in the club and in particular eyes can be cast to the dreadful running of Blackburn Rovers and Cardiff, so it could be very much the case of ‘better the devil you know’”

    How pessimistic are you? Do I need to list the absolutemindbogglingfuckery of Mike Ashley over the last 10 years for you? Have you been paying attention to what’s been happening at the club since he arrived?

    And why 2 left backs? Seriously, why? You’re either an idiot or a shill.

    • Leazes Ender

      So you don’t believe the Rafalution will happen either?

      • 1957

        It’s well under way according to the Chronicle…be more positive, Diame will still be here next season, more signings like him and the future is really bright.

        • Leazes Ender

          The Rafalution started….Has it, I must have missed the fanfare and balloons…..its a bit like Brexit…… neebody knows what it means.

      • lukegte

        Absolutely not. I do believe he’s a great coach, but I can’t see him being supported by MA the way he should be

    • Hughie_Gallacher

      I seriously believe NUFC supporters should be studied as part of an effort to understand memory loss.

      ‘Things are going swimmingly’ just because we got promoted?

      Come on.

  • Keith G

    I’m imagining, and they will get stuffed!!

  • Wor Monga

    There’s one thing for sure Paul that team would have the right sort of experience to handle the PL, and that’s the most necessary quality that is needed for any team going up there that wants to make the stay solid and permanent…after the first season back we will be on a more level footing with the others in terms of spending power, and that’s what will make us a realistic prospect for challenging the top six…

    …Forget what Leicester did…they fooled a lot of people, and good luck to them, but one shot wonders might come and go now and then, but staying at the top end is what the Toon must be aiming at, and that means starting out with the right sort of experience in place… as the foundations…

    …I could also see Aarons, Atsu and Armstrong along with Clark and Darlow slotting in quite nicely with that team framework you have come up with, but I’d also prefer to see Reina there in place of Hart!!!

    • Geordiegiants

      I’m not to keen on Hart at all to be fair.

  • Cregg

    This is a horrible, horrible looking team.

    Naming 2 left backs is enough in itself.

    Would be extremely worried if our team resembled this come opening day.

  • custurd

    The way things are going at the moment — with insane loan player demands, hijacked “deals”, disinterested “targets” and whatnot — the NUFC team for the coming season will be:

    Yedlin Lascelles Clarke Dummett
    Shelvey Hayden
    Richie Diame Atsu

    Subs: Darlow, Mbemba, Haidara, Colback, Gouffran, Mitrovic, Aarons.

    Let’s hope things change, eh?

  • Andrew Sanderson

    This is a team that would excite the fans, but would it function? I’m not sure. Gibbs, Clichy and Navas are too self-obsessed for me.

    The cost of buying or loan deals would not be a problem, but paying their wages is likely to make the total monthly mortgage payments from the City of Newcastle look easy.

  • Usman

    So are you putting clichy or gibbs at right back? And how many times have you seen them play in that position. People would start taking you seriously if you knew what you were talking about. Maybe someone like chambers at right back. Even this team is realistic




    • Geordiegiants

      No Shelvey?